“As England, in spite of the hopelessness of her military position, has so far shown herself unwilling to come to any compromise, I have decided to begin to prepare for, and if necessary carry out, an invasion of England.
This operation is dictated by the necessity of eliminating Great Britain as a base from which a war against Germany can be fought, and if necessary the island will be occupied.
I therefore issue the following orders…"
ADOLF HITLER, Supreme Commander. ‘Directive 16’ – 16th July 1940
The German plan to invade Great Britain in 1940, code name Unternehmen Seelöwe or Operation Sealion, required two essential pre-conditions – total naval superiority in the English Channel and total control of the skies above. Once that was sorted out all the Nazis had to do was a) Invade, b) Finalise the details of UK administration and c) Arrest all the people that they didn’t like – the “enemies of the state, traitors and undesirables, marked for punishment or death.”
To this end and in their usual efficient manner they drew up the notorious “Black Book” – the ‘Sonderfahndungsliste GB’ – compiled by SS Oberfuhrer Walter Schellenberg. In 144 pages it listed the names of nearly 3000 people:- communists, trade unionists, homosexuals, Jews, Freemasons, artists and liberals – people like the extravagantly named secret intelligence officer Conrad Fulke Thomond O’Brien-ffrench, reputed to be the inspiration for James Bond, Sylvia Pankhurst, campaigner for the suffragette movement and a prominent communist and anti-fascist, the singer and anti-racist campaigner Paul Robeson and Baden-Powell who founded the Scouts.
Conrad Fulke Thomond O’Brien-ffrench
Fortunately Unternehmen Seelöwe never happened. During the hot summer of 1940 the Royal Navy denied the Kriegsmarine control of the English Channel and during the Battle of Britain the RAF did the same for the Luftwaffe in the skies. To mark the 75th anniversary of this momentous event ‘Forces War Records’ have translated all 144 pages of the ‘Black Book’ into English and it is now available for all to see.
Take a look. Are any your relatives on the Gestapo’s “To-Do” list? My uncle was. His crime in the eyes of the Nazis was to be a left winger and chairman of the Labour League of Youth. He had a copy of his original Sonderfahndungsliste GB’ record hanging on the wall. “It is”, he said, “a reminder that fascism is always there. Like rust, it never sleeps.” Fortunately for us, neither did the men and women of RAF Fighter Command in 1940, and neither did our parents and grandparents and their parents too, standing as one, one legendary summer 75 years ago.
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’
Winston Churchill to the House of Commons – 18 June 1940
An extract of Churchill’s speech
— from Martyn Day